LESS IS MORE: The Nature of Letting Go

LESS IS MORE: The Nature of Letting Go

Makeba Rainey: LESS IS MORE: The Nature of Letting Go

The Schuylkill Center presents the solo exhibition “LESS IS MORE: The Nature of Letting Go” by Philadelphia-based visual artist and community organizer Makeba Rainey. Her artwork blends layers of imagery of ancestors, Black Liberation leaders, and local figures from the African-American community. By harvesting from the environmental initiatives and voices in Philadelphia and creating sacred, meditative, and self-reflective spaces in the gallery and outdoors, Rainey’s artwork will shed light on the practices, emotions, and resiliencies that sustain Black communities in our metropolis. 

4 Dec 2021 – 26 Mar 2022
Curated by Tina Plokarz & Emily Sorensen

Throughout this winter, the gallery at the Schuylkill Center is decked out in dazzling portraits of local Black figures, Liberation leaders, and ancestors, created by local artist Makeba Rainey. Bright colors and patterns of African wax cloth frame defiant, determined, and joyful faces—all layered on handmade, wildflower-seeded paper that can be planted after the show. Beyond her signature-style portraits, Rainey transforms the gallery into a healing, meditative space complete with a cozy reading corner for rest and reflection. 

With the exhibition, titled “LESS IS MORE: The Nature of Letting Go,” Rainey explores how Black folks can access the energy of nature necessary for community and self-sustainability. More particularly, Rainey asks us, how do we harness nature while also living in ethical and resourceful accord with it? Especially in this time of global scarcity—scarcity more keenly and unjustly felt by those living in already under-resourced communities in our city—what does it look like to live sustainably, to find sustenance in ancestors, neighbors, family, and friends? 

In that vein, Rainey’s work is characterized by close and extended collaborations with fellow artists, local organizations, and community members. Indeed, “artist” is only one of many titles Rainey would give herself; others include curator and community organizer. Her creative practice “focuses on building community,” which she considers “an extension of family,” and key to her social justice work, in which “community becomes the key to liberation,” particularly Black Americans. Makeba Rainey’s exhibition at the Center is a presentation of understanding environmental practice as a social event that grows on building ecological empathy across communities.

For this exhibition, collaborators will include fellow Philadelphia artists Dominique London (creator of Skoolie, a school bus turned sustainable tiny home), Sudan Green (of SpiritsUp!) and sound designer Julien Terrell, among others. With these collaborators, Rainey will offer self-guided, meditative walks, healing rituals, and art workshops. 


Contribute to the exhibition:

Artist Makeba Rainey is actively collecting submissions of photographs of recently deceased loved ones who were part of the Black community in Philadelphia. Each photo will be printed on a church fan and placed upon the memorial wall in the gallery. Please fill out this form to submit a photo.



In Color Birding Outing
Saturday, March 19 | 8:30–11:30am | Free

Spot nature’s feathered species along our trails with Philadelphia-based In Color Birding Club. Offered alongside the gallery exhibition LESS IS MORE: The Nature of Letting Go, this outing will begin with a grounding in community and include periods of silence for reflection as well as joyful interactions with nature, birds, and each other. The outing is specifically for the BIPOC community. All access needs will be accommodated; please let us know. As space is limited to 40 participants, registration is required.

Spirits Up! Yoga Workshop
Saturday, March 26  |10:00 am –12:00 pm | Free; donations are welcomed.

Ground yourself and follow nature’s flow with this powerful outdoor meditation and yoga class led by Sudan Green of Spirits Up!. Offered alongside the gallery exhibition LESS IS MORE: The Nature of Letting Go, in this workshop we’ll practice the ultimate “letting go,” freeing the mind of thought and losing the self in breath. The workshop will creatively combine meditation, yoga, and painting to visualize grief and unity. Members of the Black community are welcome to join this yoga practice, suited for new and experienced students alike. Space is limited to 50 participants. Registration is required.



Exhibition soundtrack by Julien Terrell



Originally from Harlem, Makeba “KEEBS” Rainey is a visual artist, curator, and organizer. Her creative practice focuses on building community which she considers an extension of family. By centering her work around social justice, specifically in regard to Black Americans, community becomes the key to liberation. Her artwork taps into aspects of the Black community, merging the old with the new by re-envisioning the ancestors through new media and creating space for young creatives to build and sustain themselves.

Originally from Harlem, New York, Rainey is a self-taught artist, best known for her original style of digital collage portraits of contemporary and historical Black icons. She has exhibited internationally; received a 2017 Create Change Fellowship with the Laundromat Project and 2018 CFEVA Fellowship. She is a 2018 Season III NARS resident Artist and since 2018 a member of the art collective Vox Populi in Philadelphia.

More Info: @justkeebs



About the exhibition in The Times Herald and the Schuylkill Center blog.



Opening Reception
Saturday, Dec 4, 2021 from 2-4pm
A conversation with the artist, food by Dominique London, and restorative walk and meditation facilitated by culture worker and healer Hakim Pitts.


Photos by Eric Sorensen @ericsorensenart


The Schuylkill Center’s environmental art program is supported by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, as well as private donations by our members, supporters and friends.

Consider making a gift to the Environmental Art Program in support of our ongoing art program, and help build curiosity and community in Philadelphia.